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Young shepherd wrangles big award

Up-and-coming Wairarapa shepherd Devlin Gurr earned first place in the annual Shepherd of the Year regional competition for those 26 and under.

Originally from Northland, Gurr, who is 21, said he hadn’t really given much thought about the benefits of winning but thought it could be a building block for the future.

“Hopefully, it opens a few doors and gets my name thrown around,” he said.

The competition involved three modules based on a shepherd’s day-to-day work that Gurr said were “a lot more in-depth” than what he thought they would be.“It was amazing how much they covered in the one day,” he said.

Gurr entered the competition with the attitude that he “might as well give it a crack” because “there was nothing to lose”.

“Never thought I would actually win it,” he said.

Gurr said that although he doesn’t come from a farming background, he was interested in the agricultural sector from a young age and entered a cadetship after high school.

He said he “fell in love with dog work and being on a horse – just your standard shepherd life”.

Gurr moved to Wairarapa after completing his cadetship.

Currently working at Glenburn Station, a traditional Wairarapa hill country station that runs 10,000 sheep and 1000 cattle on a 14,000-acre property, Gurr now wants to move up through the ranks.

“At this stage, I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Volunteer organiser and judge Kayla Cutfield said she was excited by the 21-year-old’s willingness to get stuck in, as well as his enthusiasm, which was the biggest draw card.

Cutfield said Gurr “was a very easy-going person to talk to in general”, which is an important quality when working on a big sheep and beef station like Glenburn.

It was also impressive that Gurr knew his limitations, Cutfield said.

“He was pretty straight up about things that he wasn’t sure about or wasn’t as good at.”

Four judges ranked the competitors’ performance during three practical module assessments, including dog, sheep, and cattle handling, and fencing, as well as a farm interview.

There was also a general questionnaire that asked about the shepherds’ drive and where they wanted to progress in the industry in order to gain a good understanding of their future goals.

Cutfield said that throughout the competition, she enjoyed witnessing the young competitors’ eagerness and willingness to learn.

“There are not really a lot of shepherds out there, and it was good to see those ones coming through,” she said.

“They have so much energy and enthusiasm.”

The competition itself, she said, is another way to recognise new talent and keep them in the agriculture sector.

Cutfield said the award is a valuable part of a farmer’s CV when they’re progressing into a managerial role or equity partnership.

“A lot of shepherds don’t like putting themselves out there, but it is a really good way to do that further groundwork and establish yourself for future opportunities.”

The venue for the practical day was Brad Swindlehurst’s Mangarata Farm.

The competition is open to those aged 18 to 26 [this year’s contestants were aged from 19 to 24.

Keinzley Agvet and the John Daniell Memorial Trust sponsor the competition, which is free to enter and has run for 10 years.

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